Death is a difficult subject to talk about at the best of times – it is painful, mysterious, and scary, even for us adults. And as much as we may want to shelter our children from these feelings, the reality is that children are just as affected by the death of a loved one as we are – perhaps even more so. While we like to think death and grieving is largely an experience suffered only by adults, the opposite is true: whether the deceased person be a child or adult, parent or sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent or friend, there’s a good bet that there is a child in the life of that person who is going to have to face and experience that loss.
Too often we believe the best way to shelter our kids from pain is to exclude them from the experience altogether. I believe this is misguided. Kids are smart, and even the youngest of children know something is wrong, even without being told. To exclude them only builds fear, anxiety, and insecurity in a time that is already fraught with sadness and upheaval.
Instead, I believe we need to bring our kids into the discussion, to share in the grieving process, and help them understand this most painful and confusing time, so that they can grieve, heal, grow, and emerge stronger – all the while knowing they are both loved and not alone during the process. I created The Big D to give parents the tools and the words to help do just this.
The Big D helps make death an approachable topic, using words, images and concepts even very young children can understand. It is universal in nature (ie. not partisan to but accepting of any particular faith or religion), honest and straightforward – no beating around the bush to “protect” children with euphemisms and metaphors, which only makes things even harder to understand. While a few books for children about death exist on the market, this is the only book to our knowledge that approaches death in this fashion, and in a way that is accessible to kids of all ages.
The quality of the relationship between the surviving parent and child is the most important and consistent mediating factor in the outcome of a child’s bereavement.
If we can give parents the tools to help facilitate a family’s journey through death and grief, children are more likely to have better long-term outcomes, both in their relationships and their future self-image.
The Big D is the first book in Dr. Kate’s Elephant in the Room series for children, that help bring difficult topics out into the open in a straightforward, approachable way. They are intended to help make life easier for youngsters facing difficult experiences, whether a death in the family, the prospect of surgery or serious illness, or any of the other challenges children have to face when they and their families encounter us in the medical world.
This title is also available in French